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Awhirl with roses, tradition, curtsies

With a very few exceptions, the St. Petersburg Debutante Ball has been a tradition since 1937, occurring the week between Christmas and New Year's in the Coliseum ballroom.

Nineteen young women were presented Tuesday evening in the 2004 version of that venerable event. Dressed in white ball gowns and carrying bouquets of red roses, they glided down the stairs, took the arms of their fathers and walked around the ballroom floor, curtsied to their mothers, then took the arms of their escorts.

Lush, abundant bouquets of Rouge Baiser roses filled white urns and topped tall white columns that gave an elegant, classic look to the stage. Vases of the roses also decorated the tables where families, friends and other guests were seated, and rose petals were strewn along the tablecloths.

Former mayor Bob Ulrich was master of ceremonies, introducing the 2004 class, their parents and escorts. They are:

Sarah Bussey Bennett, daughter of Lennie Bennett and William Kimberly Bennett, Florida State University; escorted by Oscar Hill Tatum IV.

Andrea Claire Boulay, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Alfred Boulay Jr., Auburn University; escorted by Justin Trinidad Morados.

Jacquelyn Leigh Bowers, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. John Francis Lee, Emory University; escorted by Alexander Robert Bowers.

Robyn Ann Braun, daughter of Ronald and Dr. Bonnie Braun, University of Florida; escorted by Timothy Daniel Rogers-Hehr.

Christina Marie Casadonte, daughter of Dr. Joseph and Mimi Casadonte, Emory University; escorted by Joseph Ramon Casadonte.

Julie Ann Cunningham, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Thomas Cunningham, Florida State University; escorted by Andrew Thomas Cunningham.

Carrie Jean Curtis, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ward Curtis Jr., Indiana University; escorted by Jared Brian Abelman.

Lauren Elizabeth DuPont, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Glenn Edward DuPont, University of Central Florida; escorted by Blake Taylor Safko.

Mallory Dawn Fisher, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Steven Douglas Fisher, Florida State University; escorted by David Pipkin Feaster Jr.

Emily Beth Howard, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Graham Charles Howard, University of South Florida; escorted by John James O'Connor.

Katharine Bowman Keller, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gary Douglas Keller, Emory University; escorted by Joseph Joshua Riccardi.

Katherine Victoria Klement, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Vincent Klement, University of Florida; escorted by Mark Baldwin Boyle.

Elizabeth Evans Knowlton, daughter of Janet Hagan Knowlton and David Hosmer Knowlton, Florida State University; escorted by James Gregory Bulleit.

Laura Glenn Mosby, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Davenport Mosby III, Duke University; escorted by Michael Adrian Moody.

Lindsay Meredith Piper, daughter of Lynn A. Piper and Dr. Mark Allan Piper, Elon University; escorted by Travis William Wetzel.

Chelsea Elizabeth Silverstein, daughter of Murray Bruce and Kim Lynch Silverstein, Boston University; escorted by Kevin Barry Reali.

Shannon Marie Tapp, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Gregory Tapp, Auburn University; escorted by Samuel John Seccord.

Kaley Marie Tash, daughter of Paul Clifford and Karyn Krayer Tash, Harvard University; escorted by Stephen David Cox.

Jessica Leah Toppe, daughter of Jonathan and Melanie Toppe, Florida Atlantic University; escorted by Sean Higgins.

Hundreds of longtime friends and family, including alumnae debs, gathered to pay tribute to this year's group; among them were Robert P. and Shelley Emerson Moorefield of Tallahassee, who joined her parents, Bill and Jane Emerson, at the tables hosted by Gary and Nancy Bowman Keller.

Mrs. Moorefield and Mrs. Keller made their debuts together in 1967, and Mrs. Moorefield married her escort.

John Knowlton, who for years was master of ceremonies at the ball, saw two of his granddaughters, Emma Howard and Libby Knowlton, presented this year; his late wife, Betty, oversaw every detail of the St. Petersburg Debutante Club, a task that now falls onto the capable shoulders of chairwoman Evelyn Moorefield.

It has been a busy holiday season for honorees and their families.

Two days before Christmas, the debutantes, their fathers and grandfathers were honored at a brunch held in the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.

Hosts included Enee and Steve Abelman, Doreen and Phil McLeod, Betty Jean and Tom Miller, Mary Katherine Miner, Janet Raymond, Dahlgren and Frank Scarritt, Terri and Vincent Shook, Shawn and Dick Ulrich, Barbara and Bob Ulrich, and Betty and Bob Willis.

That evening, the young women were invited to bring a few close friends to an open house held in the home of David and Lynn Cox, whose co-hosts included Fran and Dr. Dave Davis, Mary Lou and Tom DeVoe, Frances and John Doyle, Mary and Bud Evertz, Kally and Bill Harvard, Becky and Joe Lettelleir, Ria and Bill McQueen, Fay and Chris Nielsen and Cary Bond Thomas.

Hostesses for a breakfast tea Dec. 18 at the Corner of England were Kim Bond, Kerry Dobbs, Donna Hall, Darby Jung, Kim Kennedy, Tiffany Lettelleir and Breck Moorefield.

That evening, debutantes took friends for Galactic Bowling at Sunrise Lanes, where one good sport rolled the ball with both hands, claiming privileges earned through recent shoulder surgery.

Party hosts were Joann and Mike Barger, Barbie and Rob Bauman, Carol and Joe Craig, Suzanne and Tilly Earle, Marian Ellis, Charlotte and Jerry Kendall, Jackie and Lee Martino, Sue and Rich Riggins and Marcia and Michael Smith.

On Dec. 19, the debs put investigative skills to work in a murder mystery evening hosted by Lela and Blanton Garnett, Kane and Jeff Ritch, Terri and Breck Amick, Lisa and William Brooks and Nancy Rutland. The Las Vegas-style set featured gaming tables and slot machines.

It's a wonderful time for the young women and flattering to have so much attention paid them, but know this: The group adopted a service project, in which they are collecting supplies for care packages to send to men and women from the community who are serving in Iraq.

Happy new year, On-the-Towners.

Mary Jane Park can be reached at (727) 893-8267; fax (727) 893-8675; e-mail; P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.